U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, (R-FL) speaks during the National Small Business Defense Contracting Summit at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla., on Aug. 25, 2014.
Andrew Wardlow/The News Herald/AP

Republican muses over opponent’s ‘lingerie party’ attendance record


Republican Congressman Steve Southerland – up against Gwen Grahamdaughter of former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, in a heated Florida House race – is in hot water for doubling down on his campaign’s sexism, now musing over his female opponent’s lingerie party attendance record.

Southerland, responding to criticism over a male-only fundraiser his supporters hosted back in March, which stated on the invitation to “tell the Misses not to wait up,” said that the event simply resembled a “lingerie party.”

“I live with five women. That’s all I’m saying. I live with five women,” Southerland said. “Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?”

“This isn’t just stuff Steve Southerland says … it is obviously what Steve Southerland believes.”
Julia Gill Woodward, Graham campaign manager
Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward responded to the comparison to msnbc, saying “This isn’t just stuff Steve Southerland says; given his pattern of troubling actions and disturbing comments, it is obviously what Steve Southerland believes. Southerland says these things out of a fundamental disrespect for women.”

“Only if Southerland disrespects women could he hold an official, Men-Only Southerland campaign fundraiser and laugh it off after the fact,” Woodward continued. “Only if Southerland disrespects women could he air TV ads claiming to have voted for The Violence Against Women Act while he actually voted against it in Congress. Only if Southerland disrespects women could he make this insulting ‘lingerie party’ comment about a woman like Gwen Graham.”

Related: ‘30 in 30’: Women Candidates to Watch in 2014 – Gwen Graham

Steve Southerland’s campaign responded in a comment to msnbc, saying “I regret that my comments are being misused for political gain. I was trying to make the point that some organizations host men-only events and some host women-only events. Gwen Graham should be more focused on explaining her background as a D.C. lobbyist and political insider than she is on mischaracterizing my remarks.”

Southerland’s campaign manager Luke Strickland previously gave comment to BuzzFeed in an email, calling attention to the March event “laughable.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Emily Bittner released the following statement: “Steve Southerland’s latest jaw-dropping gambit to appeal to women: demean and ridicule us by claiming a ‘lingerie party defense.’ After lying about his vote opposing the Violence Against Women Act and holding a men-only fundraiser straight from the 12th century, this is a new low.”

In a recent interview with msnbc, Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, cited the alarming invitation in arguing that Southerland will struggle to win over female voters. 

As it stands, Southerland faces a strong challenge from Graham in Florida’s 2nd congressional districtAn August poll showed Graham with a slight edge, leading her opponent 45% to 43% with 11% of respondents undecided.